Saturday was an eventful day for me in more ways that one. As if meeting the kids at Saksham earlier in the day was not enough, I had the privilege of dining with the Chef at Large bloggers’ table at the Leela, Gurgaon. It was special because it was unscheduled – I am not a regular member of the table, and I was replacing a regular member who had to drop out. I must admit that I was dragged by Sid and bullied by Mona to go for this one – yes I am a difficult invitee, and an impossible unscheduled invitee- asocial is what my Mom calls me. The drive from Noida to Gurgaon was long, entertaining (thanks to yappetiyap Sid), and a bit worrisome too since we were running late. Really late, thanks to our cabbie who had probably driven into some Bermuda triangle in Noida – he consistently claimed to be somewhere nearby whenever we called to check on him, eventually he arrived 1.5 hours after he had claimed that he had reached, go figure.

Walking in so late does not feel good at all, moreso when you are informed you have missed the welcome drinks and the salad – on a normal evening that would comprise the whole of my dinner, and so yes, I was a sad girl. Until they poured in the Chardonnay followed by more wines (Craggy Range, New Zealand, Albert Bichot Cote de Rhone, France, Valpolicella “Classico” Allegrini, Corvina from Italy, Penfolds Rawson’s Retreat, Cabernet Shiraz from Australia). I believe they were originally meant to be served alongwith each course, however since I had skipped a few, mine had come in such quick succession that at one point in time I was sitting with four different wines staring at me and competing with the Sizillia Seafood Soup, with spicy seafood soup with tomatoes and olives, that was just brought in.

Mussels, plump prawns, squid rings and chunks of fish cooked in and arranged over a rich tomato base, the tang enhanced by the addition of piquant cherry tomatoes. My personal tastes, however, always reach out for milder versions when it comes to seafood, I like to taste more of the sea and the big brother tomato often bullies the subtle sea-creatures in terms of flavours. Also I am not a big fan of tart cherry tomatoes in my soup, prefer them uncooked in salads. And if it was a take on the Sicilian seafood soup then I presume it needed a bit of greens. I also wish however that the ligament of the mussels could have been eased slightly before serving, especially since it was a soup – it was a bit of a stretch as I sawed into my soup with a knife and clenched teeth, the sizeable and rather stubborn ligament inside my soup bowl, hoping nobody watches me. Nonetheless, the seafood tasted surprisingly fresh for Delhi (located thousands of miles from the nearest shore), its a pity though that I cannot say the same for the salmon that came in later as the main course (Zanotta Special Salmon, with Arugula Pesto)

My salmon tasted like paper, even the pesto could not salvage it, the arugula salad it was served with lacked enough seasoning, generous sprinklings of salt and pepper rescued me from an otherwise guiltful wastage on my plate. Looking back, I think I should have just asked for the ricotta spinach pasta since everybody who had it was raving about it, while I was trying to get over the disappointment of my main course.

We were also served a wild mushroom ravioli, and although the menu did not suggest it, we figured there were three different types of stuffing on our plate – one of them very mushroomy, complete with adequate umami and the characteristic bite, the remaining two rather pasty and inconspicuous in flavour.

These aside, one of my most memorable moments of the evening was when the raspberry sorbet was brought in – and suddenly time stood still with just the waiters moving dramatically, making a beeline for us with what appeared as beautiful lanterns, until they placed the ‘lanterns on our table’. A petite saucer of flavourful raspberry sorbet impeccably placed on a wrapped white napkin that held a tiny yellow light and everything sat inside a mammoth frozen tear drop, or a mini igloo fit for a furry bandicoot. Whichever way you describe it, it was surreal, eccentric, straight out of fantasyland, and the last place in the world I would expect to find a sorbet in, in short, crazy dramatic.

That’s me trying to hide behind the sorbet igloo (Photocredits: Sangeeta Khanna)

The dessert platter came in with chocolate semifreddo, candied orange peel, mango panacota, blueberry coulis and my most favorite thing on this platter, toffeed apricot with an overwhelming flavour of aniseed. It was an apt end to a nice evening, not just for the food but largely owing to the fabulous company at the table, many of whom I have been interacting with online on the CaL fb page but was meeting for the very first time. Special thanks to Sangeeta (Banaras ka khana) and her husband, Deeba (Passionate about baking) and Vinay (from Leela) for keeping me entertained and in turn, letting me return their favour with my usual useless banter.

Ruchira (Cookaroo) ordered for a coffee icecream and wanted me to taste it, and I did. I thought the flavour was perfect although it was not creamy enough to entice me beyond the first spoonful. Also present at the table were Charis (Culinary storm), Rekha (My tasty Curry) and Parul (The Shirazine)

Having said all that, I maintain that taste is subjective and so are expectations. Do read what the other bloggers present at the table had to say about their experience!